Product concept formation is regarded as a key activity in developing a product. It may determine the success level of a new product development (NPD) project. Owing to a large number of possible design alternatives in the early stage of product development, it is critical to formulate design properties as well as design alternatives. Although much research has been attempted to deal with this problem, few of them are able to appropriately make a trade-off between designer’s requirements and customer’s demands. This work presents a prototype Web-based customer-oriented product concept formation system, which involves customers in formulating design properties and design alternatives. For this purpose, the laddering technique is first adopted to establish a so-called functional attribute hierarchy (FAH). Based on the FAH, different design alternatives can then be generated with a combination of alternative values. Through customer involvement via the Web, the Kohonen association algorithm is subsequently adapted to expedite the selection of preferred design alternatives according to multicultural customer factors. A case study on wood golf club design is provided to illustrate the prototype system.
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